UNESCO sites shut down amid third wave of COVID-19 in Iran

November 23, 2020 - 18:56

TEHRAN - Most of Iran’s UNESCO World Heritage sites, cultural heritage museums, and historical sites across the country have gone on lockdown for at least two weeks in cities defined as the high-risk “red” zones due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Iranian authorities have imposed a two-week lockdown in the capital and some 150 Iranian cities from November 12 as the country is battling a third wave of the virus.

According to the National Headquarters for Coronavirus Control, the sites’ staff must be present at work during this period, but the sites and museums are closed to the public to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, on Sunday said Farhad Azizi who presides over the World Heritage Affairs Office at the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts. 

The cultural heritage museums and historical sites have so far been closed and reopened for times from the pandemic’s early days onward in a preventive measure to curb the disease. 

Due to a sharp rise in the number of coronavirus infections and deaths, all historical sites as well as all art and cultural centers, universities, schools, seminaries, English schools, libraries, movie theaters, mosques, beauty salons, and several other entities have been shut down once again.  

However, the tourism ministry has arranged online visits and virtual tours on the country’s 24 World Heritage sites as well as other historical sites and museums, while people have to stay home during the quarantine time. 

Corona may cause critical situation

In October, Cultural Heritage, Tourism, and Handicrafts Minister Ali-Asghar Mounesan warned that Iran’s cultural heritage and tourism will be in a critical situation if the crises caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus continue.

Iran’s tourism has suffered a loss of 12 trillion rials (some $2.85 billion) since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, he said in August.

“The tourism industry of the country was growing and progressing well but unfortunately, it has faced the coronavirus outbreak, which brought the industry into a standstill.”

“Many tourism projects have been completed, or are being implemented, showing that a very good capacity has been created in the field of tourism in the country and [this trend] should not be stopped,” he explained.

Referring to the investment of 1,370 trillion rials (around $32 billion at the official rate of 42,000 rials) in the tourism sector he added that this volume of investment indicates that investors recognize the growing tourism sector as a new economy in the country and have high hopes for it.

The minister said the coronavirus pandemic should not bring traveling to a complete standstill. “Corona is a fact, but can the virus stop tourism? Certainly not. For us, the coronavirus is a new experience in dealing with crises that teaches tourism experts around the world how to deal with such a disaster, and thankfully governments are turning this into an opportunity for better planning.”

Optimistic forecasts, however, expect Iran to achieve a tourism boom after coronavirus contained, believing its impact would be temporary and short-lived for a country that ranked the third fastest-growing tourism destination in 2019.

Iran ranks 10th in the world in terms of the number of historical monuments and sites registered on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Amongst the UNESCO-designated sites in Iran are “Arg-e Bam” (Bam Citadel) that represents an outstanding example of an ancient fortified settlement, “Bisotun” in western Kermanshah province, which is notable for its Achaemenid-era inscription carved on a limestone cliff, lavish “Golestan Palace” in downtown Tehran which is a masterpiece of the Qajar era (1789 to 1925), and millennium-old “Gonbad-e Qabus” which is a mudbrick tomb tower for Qabus ibn Wushmagir.

ABU/AFM

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